James F. Donnelly, Registered Sex Offender Moves in Across the Street From Public Elementary School

Update #4: KRON is reporting that Donnelly has moved from the residence across the street from the elementary school.

I grappled with whether or not to publish this email that I received last night. It’s not so much that I object to having a registered sex offender live so close to me, even if on a personal level with four young children that bothers me. It’s more that I think it’s irresponsible for the state to allow, and for a registered sex offender to choose, to live across the street from an elementary school. Not just because it’s my community’s school, but because I don’t think a registered sex offender should live across the street from *any* school.

While I can personally empathize with the plight of registered sex offenders and their need to live *somewhere,* I think across the street from a school is not a good idea for a myriad of reasons. I thought that Megan’s Law precluded registered sex offenders from living close to schools and so I called our local police department this morning (to both confirm the press release as well as to inquire about the law’s requirement). The police told me that because Donnelly was convicted Federally, rather than at the State level, that he was under Jessica’s law rather than Megan’s law. Apparently Jessica’s law allows registered sex offenders to move in across the street from elementary schools under a Federal conviction rather than a state one (which seems entirely inconsistent to me personally).

I also asked the police department whether or not it would be legal for me to republish the press release that they issued and they told me that it would be. So this is the press release that I received. While I recognize that Donnelly did his time for his crimes, I do hope that he reconsiders his decision to live across the street from a school. I also hope that people that might deal with him who have children are made aware of his criminal past.

The Piedmont Police Department is providing information to the public about a person required to register as a sex offender pursuant to California Penal Code Section 290. The Piedmont Police Department deems this notification necessary to ensure the public safety based upon information made available to this department by the United States Department of Justice and to allow the public to protect themselves and their children from sex offenders.

James F. Donnelly has been released from federal prison after serving time for Possession of Child Pornography. The Piedmont Police Department believes that in addition to the charge for which James F. Donnelly was convicted, he was also the subject of a federal investigation into child sex tourism, was a participant in NAMBLA (North America Man Boy Love Association) and has moved very near an elementary school.

James F. Donnelly is a 71 year old, white male, residing at 256 Wildwood Ave., Piedmont, CA. Mr. Donnelly drives an orange 2010 Honda Fit 4-door hatchback.

Any person who criminally misuses the aforementioned information will be subject to criminal prosecution.

John Hunt
Captain / Interim Chief of Police
March 2, 2010

Update: A more detailed conversation about my decision on whether or not to publish this post can be read here.

Update #2: The NY Times picks up on this story here.

Update #3: 2nd article from the NY Times says that Donnelly is trying to “speed up” the process of relocating. Also, someone claiming to be Donnelly’s niece responds in the comments.

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  1. Rob-L says:

    Just ridiculous. Like many laws, it seems that something extreme will have to happen before the law gets updated to eliminate such an obvious oversight.

    Personally, I think if a male is convicted of a sex crime, they should be castrated. How many times have we all heard stories of convicted sex crime offenders being released and going back to their old habits? Too many. Some will argue that castration doesn’t eliminate the problem in all cases, but to me it couldn’t hurt in the fight against the problem either. At the least, think of it as a deterrent.

  2. Paula says:

    Looks like this made it to the top of google – if you search his name, this appears even before the football coach with this name on wikipedia…

    James F. Donnelly, Registered Sex Offender Moves in Across the …
    I grappled with whether or not to publish this email that I received last night. It’s not so much that I object to having a registered sex offender live so.
    thomashawk.com/…/james-f-donnelly-registered-sex-offender-moves-in-across-the-street-from-public-elementary-school.html – 43 minutes ago –

  3. Heidi says:

    I’m shocked that some people are writing that possession of Child Porn isn’t that bad of an offense. Of course, I’m not shocked this was written by a man. I guess women are more protective of their children which is why we take on the majority of the responsibility of raising them. From the responses to this blog post I’m glad it’s that way. Did you not read the part of the press release that said they are investigating this pervert for child sex tourism??? NAMBLA????

  4. AnonMom says:

    This man living across from Wildwood Elementary School is ridiculous! Piedmont is a community “of” children. Many people go out of there way to come to Piedmont for the great schools. For this man to move in across the street from a school is absolutely ridiculous! Not only is he a sex offender, but his deviant preference is for “CHILDREN”! The law should definitely be changed/enforced, to not allow a sex offender to live across the street from a school. Not only is he a “pervert”, but a selfish pervert – he knows people will have a problem with him and be afraid for their children, but he still choose to move across the street from a school – literally across the street! That’s like a “crackhead” moving next door to the “crackhouse”! I don’t know or care what his circumstances for living in this community may be (ex. living with family or friends upon his release because he is low on money, etc)… he could have moved anywhere but here. He can afford to buy a new 2010 Honda Fit! He can afford a residence elsewhere! There are plenty of areas in the Bay Area that are not as inundated with children as Piedmont is. Ridiculous!

  5. cynthia says:

    I too am at a total loss for words. How lame is it that one law cancels or supeceeds the other. Megan vs. Jessica. This person needs to leave town if nothing else move and be no where near any school. I am totally appalled that nothing can be done. Is there a picture of this guy? It should be posted everywhere.

  6. Sierra Donnelly says:


    I am James Donnelly’s or as i know him, Uncle Jimmy, niece. While i understand the outrage, and fearful parents, they act as if this was a repeat offence, which it was NOT, as well as if he is going to jump out from someplace and attack children, which he has NEVER done. As for the Thiland “sex tour” it was NOT a child sex tour as far as our family has heard, and he has never ever once made anything close to a pass at me growing up, and he always has been my favorite uncle to see and visit as he would bring me trinkets from Thailand.

    He ISNT planning on staying with my aunt, and never was, it’s merely to give him time to find housing elsewhere, which hes in the process of.

    PLEASE do not make this harder for our small broken family than it already has been before all this news.

    Thank you

  7. Ben Goldstein says:

    I have known James Donnelly for many years as a good and honorable member of the community, I also knew he took trips to Thailand and that he liked the company of young men, which explains his interest in NAMBLA, but was surprised and saddened at the charges brought against him and by his subsequent incarceration.

    If it matters to anyone, by young men I am referring to 16+yrs of age, not prepubescent. It’s unfortunate that such details were not included in the police press release while other less relevant ‘facts’ about ‘investigations’ that never led to charges is included, making Jim’s transition back into society more difficult by further heightening the fears already held by many.

    As far as I know, the commentary by his niece is 100% accurate. He is a decent person. Jim has been caught at the very fringe of what is legal under present law; he is no child predator but unfortunately, will be treated like one for the rest of his life.

  8. discarted says:

    This is a major issue that must always be address, and there certainly should be a public database of sex offenders. However, I always had a problem with the fact that there is only a public database for sex offenders and not all criminals. For instance, I personally don’t have to worry about any sex offender since I do not have children, etc, but I would like to know that a murderer, repeat offenders, or someone with an extremely violent criminal history moved in across the street from me.

    I strongly support the sex offender database, but there is a double standard happening here. Especially when someone is on the sex offender database for a very minor crime of exposing himself/herself in public simply because they had to urinate and decided to use the sidewalk. That has happened to some.

  9. Andre says:

    Update: He has moved out of the Bay Area, per KRON4: http://bit.ly/9XNbo5

  10. Anonymous says: